CAREN Act: Will San Francisco law stop Karens like Amy Cooper from making fake, racist 911 calls?
The CAREN Act was introduced by San Francisco Supervisor Shamann Walton and is homophonous with 'Karen'
Amid rising reports of racially discriminatory 911 calls being made targeting Black people across the country, the 'CAREN Act', or the Caution Against Racially Exploitative Non-Emergencies Act, was introduced by a San Francisco official on Tuesday, July 7. The particular Act has been introduced as an ordinance and seeks to impose fines on anyone making false and discriminatory emergency reports in the region.
The CAREN Act was introduced by San Francisco Supervisor Shamann Walton and is homophonous with 'Karen', a popular moniker designated to racist and entitled White women. "Central Park Karen" is a recent high-profile example referring to Amy Cooper, a White woman who called the police on a Black man after he asked her to keep her dog leashed in Central Park. Amy Cooper, an investment banker, who was later fired over the incident, made a phone call feigning being threatened by the Black man who was birdwatching in the park. She was charged on Monday, July 6, for falsely reporting an incident in the third degree. The charges against her, however, do not account for any racial bias.
The CAREN Act, however, includes the racial bias clause as a primary factor in the charge. Although making false reports is already a crime in San Francisco, the new bill seeks to amend the San Francisco Police Code in an effort to make it unlawful for someone to fabricate a report based on someone’s race, ethnicity, religious affiliation, gender or sexual orientation. A similar bill was also introduced in California last month by Oakland Assemblyman Rob Bonta, seeing to make discriminatory 911 calls a hate crime in the state.
Walton, in a press release announcing the bill, stated: "Within the last month and a half in the Bay Area, an individual called the police on a Black man who was dancing and exercising on the street in his Alameda neighborhood and a couple called the police on a Filipino man stenciling ‘Black Lives Matter’ in chalk in front of his own residence in San Francisco’s Pacific Heights." The official, during the San Francisco Board of Supervisors meeting on July 7, also stated that his bill is "part of a larger nationwide movement to address racial biases and implement consequences for weaponizing emergency resources with racist intentions."
Walton also tweeted about his bill, writing: “Racist 911 calls are unacceptable that’s why I’m introducing the CAREN Act at today’s SF Board of Supervisors meeting. This is the CAREN we need. Caution Against Racially Exploitative Non-Emergencies.” It is not yet clear what the penalty will be for someone making a racially discriminatory emergency report.
Similar measures are being implemented across the country amid widespread protests against systemic racism in the United States. The demonstration erupted after George Floyd, an unarmed Black man, died while he was in police custody in Minneapolis on May 25. Former police officer, Derek Chauvin, knelt on Floyd's neck for over eight minutes as the 46-year-old pleaded with him to let him breathe. Floyd eventually fell unconscious and was declared dead.